Friday, January 7, 2011

Think Sunny Thoughts

Well, I'm ending one more week by NOT riding. January is part of the "off season" for a reason, I guess. But, I read this fabulous article on EN today that has me very excited about my next jump school.....whenever that might be. Here are a few highlights I gleaned, so I am looking forward to a day when the sun shines and the mud dries. 

  • Have a plan BEFORE you get on to ride (move jumps prior to getting tacked up, if you don't have someone to set jumps for you while you ride).
  • Jump at home at least once a week, which will help keep your horse from being silly when you do jump them (yep, excellent advice.....maybe if Eddie was jumped often enough that he got bored with it, he wouldn't act like he'd never done it before and that it's just the most exciting, outrageous thing he's ever experienced. Wheee!!! ).
  • Distinguish between jump schools that focus on technique versus those that are educational exercises. Questions that hone technique allow horse/rider to both practice what works, and make it better or more effective. Educational lessons are designed to follow-up with or revisit something that has gone wrong or "needs fixin'" and should focus on that one specific area until the situation is resolved, or at least until progress is shown.
  • To tie-in with that last statement, know when to stop for the day.....being aware of when your horse has reached his limit or is on the edge of "shutting down." Know when he is mentally worn-out before he is physically worn-out. Rome wasn't built in a day!
  • Jump schools that emphasize technique should have questions that involve asking the horse to shorten his stride/lengthen his stride, jump more roundly, avoiding landing short, and move strongly off both leads. Some ways to practice these goals include using raised placement poles (I mentioned this same suggestion in my earlier post that referenced the USEA professionals panel), using angled jumps or bending lines, and jumping on a circle to get a horse quicker up front on his one lead or the other (depending on which is his weaker direction). In terms of working on rider technique, try a few different aids or approaches to asking for something in a different way (such as shifting weight/seat differently, altering your release slightly, or perhaps sitting taller in the saddle.....which I also learned when reading about Sharon White and how she rides green youngsters cross-country). 
  • Jump schools that emphasize educational opportunities are not as prescriptive and may depend entirely upon what happened (or DIDN'T happen) at the previous event. Typical competition errors might arise due to bad timing, an awkward approach, or an unbalanced horse too much on his forehand or leaning too much on one lead or the other. Ways to improve upon these errors in an educational jump school might involve bending lines, angled fences, or a line of related distances (which helps when trying to tweak the approach to a jump, since the exact distance is easier to "find" when coming from a related effort). 
  • Ultimately, if you jump often, there will be a fair amount of technique schoolings as well as educational lessons, sometimes with both purposes being combined. There is no rule that says you can't work on things you do well to make them better, while at the same time perhaps introducing something new and bringing that to the jump school on the same day. Sally's advice to know your horse and what makes him tick is a sound suggestion that will make schoolings more productive and customized.....and, will require the rider to be aware, observant, and involved in why he/she is doing what, and what the subsequent result should be. 
  • Finally, she says "If I have introduced something new, I will try to finish the school on something that the horse finds relatively easy so he goes back to the barn in a good frame of mind." Or, in other words.....end on a positive note!
I can't wait to have good weather here so I can practice some of these schooling exercises. I know that I need to be incorporating more related distances, as well as jumping Eddie on a circle to the RIGHT, since he is stiff to the right and that is his weaker lead. I am so ready to see some amazing improvements in 2011!

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